Preparing Your Achilles for Running & Return-to-Sport
Ever had (or heard of) an achilles rupture or tear? They are no fun to go through! The achilles is an important structure in the body used frequently to jump, run, and walk, which makes it prone to overuse, and unfortunately, injury.The Importance of Your Achilles
While an achilles tear can sideline you from the sports and activities you love, there are ways you can strengthen your achilles to prevent injury. Keep reading to learn about achilles injuries and how to avoid them.
When looking at the foot and ankle, one of the structures to stand out is the achilles. The Achilles tendon is a strong fibrous cord connecting the muscles in the back of your calf to your heel bone. It’s one of the largest structures on the backside of the lower leg. It’s gotten pretty popular because of achilles ruptures.
Your achilles is important in athletic performance and activities in your daily life, like walking. The achilles essentially acts as an elastic band, allowing force to be transferred between the bone and the muscle and spring-y in our movement, including running and jumping. It is very important in allowing us to transfer energy.
Symptoms of an Achilles Tear
When the achilles ruptures, it can either completely or partially tear. An irritated achilles tendon can be frustrating and annoying to deal with. It results in pain and swelling within the tendon or where the tendon inserts into the heel bone.
Though there may be no signs or symptoms at all, a majority of people show the following symptoms as a result of an achilles tear:
- A popping or snapping sound when the achilles tendon ruptures
- Pain (could be severe) and swelling near the heel
- You’re unable to stand on your toes
- You’re unable to bend the foot downward
- Inability to push off your injured leg while walking
Avoiding Achilles Ruptures
How can you prevent your achilles from rupturing? Here’s how to avoid an achilles tear:
Slow, basic stretching before exercise or physical therapy is a great first step to preventing an achilles tear and reducing the chances of injury.
- Sit in a chair and extend your leg with your heel touching the floor.
- Reach down with your hand and pull your big toe up and back.
- Hold this position for at least 15 seconds.
- Repeat this movement 3 more times.
- Place your hands on a wall for balance.
- Step back with your left leg. Keep the leg straight, and press your left heel into the floor.
- Pressing your hips forward, bend your right leg slightly, so you feel the stretch in your left calf.
- Hold the position for around 15 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat steps 1-4 three more times.
- Switch legs and repeat this movement.
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
- Place your hands lightly resting against a wall.
- Slowly raise your heels off the floor. Keeping your knees straight.
- Hold your lifted heels for about 3 seconds.
- Slowly lower your heels to the floor.
Start With a Warm-up
Be sure to build up training intensity at a gradual pace. Sudden increases in effort are among the most common ways an achilles can rupture. Do a 5-10 minute warm-up before exercising or participating in a sport or activity with repetitive movements. Consider going for a walk or jumping jacks and lunges. These movements will increase circulation to your Achilles tendons and calf muscles before your workout.
Mix Up Your Exercise
Achilles tears are common in repetitive fitness activities. A great way to avoid an achilles rupture is to vary your exercises! To avoid an achilles tear, you should alternate between high-impact and low-impact physical activities.
If you are prone to achilles injuries, avoid running up or down hills, and activities that include jumping.
Stop activities that cause pain
Avoid activities that place excessive stress on your achilles tendons, including jumping, running or sprinting. Consider switching from high-impact to low-impact activities, such as swimming, which puts less stress on the achilles. If you feel pain or discomfort while doing an exercise or activity, stop immediately.
Closing Out: Preventing Achilles Tears
Achilles tears are no fun to deal with. It’s essential to address an achilles tear early. If you continue to exercise after experiencing pain or swelling, you risk rupturing the tendon. We hope these tips keep your achilles strong and healthy and avoid ruptures.